All tours on this holiday have now departed. Future departure dates will be confirmed in due course.
Cefalu with its magnificent Duomo
Norman Palermo – with a host of churches and castles
The superb Duomo di Monreale with 6500 square metres of mosaics
Exclusive visit to the private Norman castle of Caronia
The Normans’ rule in Sicily was one of the wonders of the medieval world. During their brief hegemony from 1072 – 1194, the invaders proved themselves enlightened and appreciative of the island’s former Arab culture. Their legacy can be found in vast cathedrals, castles, abbeys and palaces, which combine Norman, Byzantine and Islamic architecture. This three-night tour will follow their footprints from the busy streets of Palermo to the picture-postcard town of Cefalu. We shall visit some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the island and enjoy privileged access to the privately owned castle of Caronia and the Abbey of San Filippo di Fragalà. Among the highlights will be our visit to the Cappella Palatina in the Norman Palace and the cathedrals of Cefalu and Monreale whose gold mosaics rival the splendour of Venice and Ravenna.
Day 1: Fly from London Gatwick to Palermo. Transfer by coach to the Mercure Palermo Centro in the heart of the city for a three night stay. This evening there will be a talk from Dr Peter Higginson, followed by dinner with wine at a local restaurant.
Day 2: Full day in Palermo.
We begin our visits with two adjacent churches built by admirals to the Norman kings. The Chiesa di Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio contains mosaic portraits of its founder George of Antioch and King Roger II. A remarkable fusion of Byzantine, Norman and Baroque architecture, it contains delicate Fatimid pillars carved with inscriptions from the Koran. In contrast the Chiesa Capitolare di San Cataldo is more austere since its decoration was never finished after the murder of its founder, Maione di Bari in 1160. We shall continue to the Palazzo dei Normanni, which the Normans transformed from a former Arab foundation, linking the building with arcades and employing Islamic gardeners to lay out the gardens. We shall then visit the Cappella Palatina on the first floor of the palace, which contains spectacular mosaics made by Greek artisans and ceilings carved by Islamic craftsmen. After an independent lunch we visit the Oratory SS. Rosario in Santa Cita to see the walls full of putti, cupids, angels and virtues made of stucco by sculptor Giacomo Serpotta, and the Oratory SS. Rosario in San Domenico with its Van Dyck altarpiece The Madonna of the Rosary with Dominican Saints. This evening there will be a second lecture by Dr Peter Higginson, followed by dinner with wine at a local restaurant.
Day 3: Full day to Cefalu, Caronia Castle and the Abbey of San Filippo di Fragala.
In the morning we shall visit the Duomo di Cefalu, built by Roger II, and walk to the harbour to see the washing places used by the Arabs. We shall continue to Caronia, a town whose spectacular strategic position has led it to be associated with Ducetius, the last 5th century BC Siculi ruler of Sicily from which the island takes its name. Whilst there we shall have exclusive access to the Norman castle of Caronia, which is now converted to a private residence. We shall enjoy a splendid lunch at a local restaurant followed by a visit to the Abbey of San Filippo di Fragalà, which was founded in 1090 by Queen Adelaide, the wife of Roger I, Count of Sicily. In addition to the monks’ cells, kitchen and dining areas, it has a striking fresco of the Pantocrator, Madonna and saints, which predates similar images in the mosaics at the Cappella Palatina, Cefalu and Monreale.
Day 4: Duomo di Monreale, Cattedrale di Palermo, Castello della Zisa, Galleria Regionale and home.
On our final day we shall visit the Duomo di Monreale, built by William II the last of the Norman kings, and blazes with more than 6,500 square metres of spectacular mosaics. Among them is the earliest commemoration of St Thomas Beckett whose murder was at the behest of William’s father-in-law Henry II. Before returning to Palermo we shall visit the Benedictine cloister, whose columns were carved by Arab craftsmen and present a fascinating comparison to the mosaics in the cathedral and the outside of the Norman palace of Castello della Zisa, whose imposing Norman walls are surrounded by more Islamic gardens. We shall return to Palermo airport for the return flight back to London Gatwick.
NB: Exact order of excursions may vary according to local conditions and tour manager's discretion.
Please note the maximum group size on this tour is 25 passengers.
Mercure Palermo Centro Hotel
The four-star Mercure Palermo Centro is ideally located in the heart of Palermo, perfect for exploring this atmospheric city. The hotel's lobby bar offers an area to relax and unwind with a drink after a long day sightseeing. Free wi-fi is available in the public areas of the hotel. Rooms are modern and comfortable with private bathroom facilities, air conditioning, TV, telephone and hairdryer.
Mercure Palermo Centro Hotel Website
Your expert guide is Dr Peter Higginson, who specialises in the art and culture of early modern Europe, and the modern period. He has taught numerous university courses abroad and has wide experience in leading cultural tours to different parts of the UK and Europe including Sicily, Rome, Venice, Florence, Paris and further afield to Cuba.
The overall size of the group (only 8 rather than 20+ that we anticipated) created a camaraderie that helped us to cope with the increasing restrictions imposed by the Italian government. Tulio, the tour manager used his contacts to enable us to do virtually everything that we were scheduled to do. He was unflappable Peter Higginson was a wonderful "expert guide". He was so personable and his subject knowledge was awesome. He delivered his lectures with passion and enthusiasm - supported by a top class local guide, Laura. I would be very keen to book another tour led by Peter
Review by Styles who travelled 07-March-2020
I enjoyed this trip, my first with Travel Editions, very, very much. I was travelling in unique circumstances, at the start of the coronavirus outbreak. During our trip, sightseeing venues were beginning to close. However, our tour director, manager and local guide managed to re-jig the itinerary so that we missed nothing of importance. We were only a bit restricted on the last day but, even then, we managed a guided walking tour of Palermo before our flight home. We also had the luxury of a small group that gelled very well together. It was all great fun.
Review by James who travelled 07-March-2020
Not enough superlatives to describe how the team dealt with the difficult situation in Sicily. By juggling the programme and by personal contacts (Tullio managed to get the key to the Fragola monastery from the mayor), we managed to see almost everything on the list. Peter Higginson was superb as tour leader -- he managed to create a very positive group dynamic from the very beginning -- and hardly betrayed that he'd been drafted in at the last moment. My compliments. Laura had an amazing fund of anecdotes about all periods of Sicilian history, as well as guiding us through the monuments. She also acted as a botanical dictionary; she knew the Linnaean names of just about every plant we saw. All in all a brilliant experience.
Review by McCann who travelled 07-March-2020
One star deducted from the accomodation rating because at the Hotel Mercure Centro I was disappointed to find that my room was a pokey single, which rankles even more when you've paid the single-person supplement. I am told on my return that this is an on-going and frequent problem, which didn't really help me. There was not even room for a bedside table!
Review by Cotton who travelled 09-March-2019
This 4-day tour was ideal for me as I did not want to be away for any longer, and the maximum use of the time available was made by the tour programme. Gerald Deslandes additionally offered some extra (i.e., not in the original programme) church and museum visits to those who wished to accompany him on these, and this was much appreciated. The very experienced local guide was excellent. There were few extra cash expenses required which was good. The hotel single room was quite small (whereas the bathroom was relatively large), but the single supplement of £40 per night was not excessive, in view of the bathroom.
Review by Anonymous who travelled 09-March-2019
Excellent taster tour
Review by Anonymous who travelled 09-March-2019
In general the tour was excellent - well presented by Gerald and the two Italian guides - Tullio and Laura (in Palermo) - who were able to give both historical and modern information about Palermo and the region. Arrangements to meet very complex timetable and coach parking arrangements worked well so we saw all that was promised and a bit more was described as we passed in the coach during transfers. Hotel slightly chaotic but all problems dealt with by the staff in good time. Very early Easyjet flight out adds an extra day to the tour for those not in easy reach of Gatwick, as can late arrival back into Gatwick. But these do allow for maximum time in Palermo.
Review by Hartman-Pearce who travelled 09-March-2019
A really strong team made this a most enjoyable and memorable holiday. Tullio, tour manager, quietly but superbly liaised locally and ensured that none of us got lost, Mario inspired confidence with safe driving in a comfortable coach. Laura, our Italian guide, regaled us with local history with gentle humour and explained fascinating Byzantine iconography, and last but not least Gerald Deslandes's lectures and commnentary gave us historical and cultural connections that added greatly to the tour. The excursions were well paced, so that we saw the most important buildings, had a wonderful lunch in a mountain village, but dint spend TOO long travelling in the coach. Laura's whisper phones were excellent, as it meant we could hear her clearly even outside with general noise around us. Good also that she didnt have to shout in churches. The hotel was good, though i think our room would be uncomfortably hot in summer unless there was air conditioning? It was a delight to be with like-minded people in the group. We appreciated Gerald's suggestion that we get ourselves taxis when there was steep climbing to do. It was a very intensive 4 days, well planned, though perhaps I would have liked a little more time to explore souvenir shops etc. I would also have liked more help before getting on flights etc. to be sure about security regulations as it is some time since we have been abroad.
Review by McGowan who travelled 09-March-2019
Gerald Deslandes was a charming and capable tour leader, but I had expected someone with a higher level of expertise. His enthusiasm was commendable and he was a very pleasant travelling companion, but I came with mistaken expectations. Tullio was a really effective and hugely impressive tour manager.
Review by Everett who travelled 09-March-2019
Review by Johnson who travelled 10-March-2018
This was our first guided tour Tour manage Gerald was knowledgable and a sensitive and skilled tour leader. The visits were well chosen, altho the trip to the ruined monastery on day 3 involved a great deal of mountainous coach travel. I would recommend without hesitation. Mike Drake (passport name John Drake)
Review by Drake who travelled 10-March-2018
Review by who travelled 10-March-2018
The trip was most enjoyable and a good introduction to the fascinating history and culture of Sicily. Gerald Deslandes is an excellent lecturer and a most thoughtful and attentive guide. His Italian colleagues were equally friendly and helpful.
Review by Sadowski who travelled 10-March-2018
Review by who travelled 10-March-2018
The tour was very interesting. The team of Gerald, Tulio, Laura and Mario was excellent- they never flapped in spite of the fact that some of the group clearly were not really physically up to the tour. The only thing I would have liked would have been more free time - all the days were pretty full on, some days we didn't really have time for coffee breaks. I would still recommend the tour.
Review by who travelled 10-March-2018
Gerald and Trujillo both excellent and looked after us well.
Review by Ridley who travelled 10-March-2018
The change to an early flight on outward journey was not well handled. The administrators did not bring it to travellers attention. The Tour itself was a great success and made particularly interesting by our 3 splendid guides
Review by Wilson who travelled 10-March-2018
Although much was seen the party was not rushed, and care taken to arrange taxis for the less able. As well as the main guide, two others provided additional information. Very enjoyable and informative.
Review by Buchanan who travelled 10-March-2018
Review by Mrs Gillian Walkley who travelled 11-March-2017
Review by Miss Jill Seymour who travelled 11-March-2017
Excellent guides and all very well run. Mosr enjoyable. (Just a shame about the single person supplement!)
Review by Mrs Mary Watts who travelled 11-March-2017
Review by Mrs Susan Dev who travelled 11-March-2017
An excellent trip enhanced by excellent lecturers Laura and Gerald who were erudite and kindly. The tour manager Tullio and the driver Mario were most accommodating and helpful and the whole thing was well organised. It was a shame, being English, that the tea and coffee-making facilities in the rooms that had been expected, were missing.
Review by Mrs Susan Raymond who travelled 11-March-2017
Review by Mrs Gillian Gunning who travelled 11-March-2017
Review by Mrs Elizabeth Edwards who travelled 11-March-2017
I very good trip. It sometimes seemed a little hurried, with but I wonder whether it really was so. The leader was often asking us to make visits "brief" and all that sort of thing, but we seemed to have enough time usually.
Review by Mr Trevor Davis who travelled 05-March-2016
Review by who travelled 05-March-2016
Tullio, and Gerald both excellent, everything went smoothly and we thoroughly enjoyed our holiday. Thought the way meals were arranged most satisfactory, no hanging around (and nobody every kept the coach waiting!) Many thanks to everyone involved.
Review by Mr Tony Hunt who travelled 05-March-2016
Review by who travelled 05-March-2016
It was really good to have a genuine Sicilian as the tour manager as he was able to give real insight into the history and current state of the island. Gerald was also excellent. Particularly good on arranging toilet breaks - boring but important. On the strength of this experience I will definitely be booking another trip with Travel editions
Review by Mrs Gretel Jones who travelled 05-March-2016
I felt the visits on the last day were too short. We should have had more time in the Monreale Cathedral and Museum. Less time for cafe and lunch. The guiding throughout was very good and helpful. Driver Mario excellent too.
Review by Mr A Seth-Smith who travelled 05-March-2016
Tulip was brilliant. I lost my mobile on the journey out (it later transpired it was on the Easyjet flight). Tulip recovered it for me and used his own mobile whilst doing so. He also kept his 'flock' together and on time - no easy task! Gerald and Lara made every day information-packed and understandable. Thank you all for a lovely holiday.
Review by Mrs Hilary Pointing who travelled 05-March-2016
Review by Mr James Botten who travelled 05-March-2016
No criticism - another day in Palermo at end of tour would be good, with opportunity for walking around once familiarised with town. Difficult to do in groups with narrow streets and no pavements. And a visit to a puppet show would be fantastic! Mario our driver and Tullio our TM were exceptionally helpful and on the ball.
Review by Mrs Christine O'Callaghan who travelled 05-March-2016
Another wonderful tour with Gerald Deslandes. Local guide Tullio was very good and our guide Laura in Palermo excellent! We could have done with some free time on another day, not Sunday when everything was closed.
Review by Mrs Pamela Blackley who travelled 05-March-2016
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